Early Spring Is An Exciting Time On The Golf Course, But It Is Far From Mid-Season

By Elliott L. Dowling, agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
March 5, 2014

Early season rolling helps smooth surface irregularities to reduce the potential for mower scalping.

While a majority of Pennsylvania and areas of northern Maryland and Delaware are covered with snow and/or ice, other parts of the Mid-Atlantic region are beginning to show signs of a slow thaw. Transitioning from winter to spring is exciting for golfers and course employees alike, and this weekend brings back daylight saving time. Players have more time after work or school and cannot wait to get on the course at the first sign of spring. Before you assume that warmer weather means manicured turf, keep in mind the golf course has been frozen and/or covered in snow for months.

Once playing surfaces are clear of snow, ice and frost, some maintenance to prepare the course is fine. Before initial cutting of any fine-turf areas, especially greens, roll them to smooth any surface irregularities that result following soil expansion or heaving from freeze/thaw cycles. Raising the height of cut before the first cut will reduce the risk of mechanical damage. Following the initial mowing, supplement regular mowing with rolling as needed until turf resumes active growth. Mowing once or twice a week may be all that is needed in the short term.

Cart restrictions are debated this time of year. Golf courses are exposed to melting snow and slowly thawing soil profiles. Saturated soils in conjunction with slow turf growth mean fine-turf areas stay wetter longer in the early spring. Remember, saturated soils plus cart traffic equals ruts and compacted soils. Keep carts on paths and follow cart rules until the superintendent is comfortable relaxing cart restrictions.

Everyone is excited to finally be outside playing golf, but remember it is early in the season and there are plenty of good days to come. Be patient. Enjoy the outdoors and realize that your superintendent and staff are working to ensure your golf course is in the best condition possible as the season progresses. Keep early season expectations reasonable.

Source: Elliott L. Dowling (edowling@usga.org)

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